Food Industry

Published on January 24th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Global Food Supply Issues & Chance of Food Riots

Food riot in Algeria

These days, living in a global village of sorts, we can easily take for granted the wide variety of foods we have access to and relatively low food prices. However, as the United States Agricultural & Food Law and Policy Blog (USAFLPB) notes, global food supply may be approaching its limit, we are currently seeing considerable price increases, and we could see much more in the future.

There are a few key issues driving this, one of which I cover pretty regularly over on one of our sister blogs, Planetsave.

Global Weirding and a Potential Food Crisis

One of the key effects of global warming and climate change is an increase in extreme weather events and natural disasters. While we can expect to see an increase in droughts, we can also expect to see an increase in extreme flooding. Counterintuitive? The point is that our weather patterns, especially as they concern precipitation, are getting drastically altered.

Crop failures are a natural result. A report from 2009 found that there’s “a 90% chance that 3 billion people worldwide will have to choose between moving their families to milder climes and going hungry due to climate change within 100 years.”

2010, 2011 Extreme Weather Events

2010 was the hottest year on record (well, tied for it). And it saw a number of extreme weather events that are going to have (or already have had) a substantial effect on food supply and prices.

We had horrible wildfires in Russia and tremendous floods (and other devastating effects) from heavy rains in Australia, Brazil, the U.S.Europe, and Asia in 2010 and 2011. Unprecedented floods in Pakistan resulted in perhaps the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history.

These 2010 and 2011 events wiped out a number of crops and, thus, food supply is considerably lower as a result.

Energy and Diminishing Food Supply

In addition to the above issues, the increasing cost of oil also makes the cost of growing crops and transporting food increase. Many reports have predicted that peak oil has been reached or will be reached in the very near future, which will drive these costs up further.

Additionally, growing crops (like corn) for fuel, a less efficient use of these crops, drives the price of food up even further.

Increasing Food Demand & Food Prices

With the global population increasing and rapid economic growth occurring in some large nations (notably, China, India, and Brazil), global food demand is increasing at the same time that global food supply is taking a number of big hits. The result: increasing (or even fast-increasing) food prices.

One of the concerns of such increases is food riots.

“A sudden food price spike in 2008 led to food riots across parts of the world that are in danger of soon being repeated,” USAFLPB notes. “Weather concerns and increased demand have led to similar price increases over a short span of time that may replicate the conditions that led to 2008’s food riots.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s food index price increased over 30% in the last six months. A further increase can be expected.

Of course, another key problem from increasing food prices, is increasing world hunger and famine.

What’s one of the best things we can do to prevent food crises and food riots? Address global weirding and live more sustainably.

Related Story: Food Crisis: World’s Biggest Looming Problem?

Photo Credit: magharebia

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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